tv [untitled] CSPAN June 23, 2009 3:30pm-4:00pm EDT
economically viable high-speed rail corridors and the political will to carry them out. if will also require clear, specific policies and delineations of expected outcomes and realistic analysis of ridership cost and other factors to drm the viability of projects and their transportation impact. mr. chairman, this concludes my statement. i would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee might have. >> thank you very much ms. fleming. and, now, mr. skancke, we welcome you and invite you to give your testimony. >> thank you, mr. chairman. the tough part about being the caboose is you cover a lot of track that the previous train has covered. keeping in light with all the other -- >> get a little closer, please. >> is that a little better? >> yes. >> good afternoon, chairman lautenberg, ranking member thune, and members of the committee. thank you for allowing me to have the opportunity to testify
today. in 2005, i was appointed to the national surface transportation policy and revenue study commission by senate majority leader harry reid. in january of 2008, after two years of meetings, hearings and research, our commission recommended to congress a vision for transportation policy and funding in america. a new vision which includes a framework that will reform and hopefully revolutionize the way we do transportation policy and funding for the next 50 years. one of our recommendations was substantive reform of our passenger rail system. over the next half century, the united states is projected to add 150 million new residents. this increase will cause travel to grow at an even greater rate than the population will. we will need to provide new mobile choices which will require a cultural shift for the traveling public. we presented our report to congress in january of 2008. we recommended that the entire country should be connected by
passenger rail by the year 2050. the recommendations also defined that the passenger rail corridor should connect population centers within 500 miles of each other. just 11 months later the g.a.o. concluded that the existing inner city passenger rail system is in poor financial condition and the current structure does not effectively target federal funds to where they provide the greatest public benefit, such as transportation congestion relief. corridor routes generally less than 500 miles in length have higher ridership, perform better financially and appear to offer greater potential for public benefit. we also recommended to congress that our nation invest in at least $8 billion per year over the next 50 years in passenger rail systems. president obama and senator reid and this congress realesed that that investment in passenger rail is needed now, not over the next 50 years. so $8 billion was put into the stimulus bill to not only create jobs but to kick-start the program to begin a valiant
new vision for america's transportation modes. i think this president and senator reid and this congress have a vision for transportation in our nation and is much like that of president eisenhower, which is connecting america. the united states's way behind the curve in passenger rail service as we all know. the far east, europe and the middle east have invested billions in passenger rail system for years. our lack of vision and investment is deteriorating our global competitiveness and our quality of life. the nation's new vision should not just focus on existing passenger rail linds but should expand beyond the current corridors. in my opinion, the vision should include a western connection much like the recommendations of our commission. connecting all 22 western state in phases as a system, not as pieces, should be a priority. the first phase of a western connection is currently being considered and under way which is the desert express high-speed rail passenger corridor connecting
victorville, california, to las vegas. it will connect that area to palmdale, california. which will go to san francisco to los angeles. this will eventually connect three major western metropolitan megaregions. each project meeting the criteria set out by our commission and the g.a.o. for being corridors of being 500 miles or less. this strigs is one that takes leadership and courage to get it done. it can be done and it should be done. i know having grown up in sioux falls, south dakota, it would have been nice too take a trip to minneapolis for a vikings game. but i was at home stuck in a blizzard because we had to travel by car. yes, these systems will be costly to design, fund and construct, but we can do this. this is the united states of america. mr. chairman, i have three policy changes for this committee to consider in the new authorization. first, we must agree upon a bold new vision and make the cultural shift in the h in the
way we do transportation. a vision they can invest in and believe in, connecting america much like the eisenhower highway system did. we must do today what our parents and our grandparents did for us. invest in a new vision, reform the current program and revolutionize how we do transportation policy and funding. second, we must reduce the time it takes to deliver a rail project in this country. 20 years in new starts is just too long. we need to get our projects delivered in three to five years. this is not environmental streamlining, as some would like to call it. it's process delivery. agencies cannot just sit on projects. we need to -- we do not need to create a oversight office. we just need to get the projects out. we need to not open up the other process. it can be done by doing -- not doing duplicative service it must be performance based and outcome drirch.
it will include reliable, ontime performance, congestion mitigation, safety and environmental benefits, improved choice -- improve choices, mobility options for all communities and reduce energy use. it needs to have ontime delivery. it needs to be reliable or the public won't use it. albert einstein said we won't be able to -- let's change our patterns of thought so we can solve the problems we created with our current patterns and thauths. mr. chairman, you should be commended for having this hearing today to talk about high-speed passenger rail. your leadership demonstrates the change is -- changes in washington, d.c., and is right here in this committee. passenger rail is the future for moving americans and now is the time to make that investment. we need to restore hope and
i have to be a little cautious with the climate change money we are working arduously. to say that there are many problems, some of them more severe than others, among them for generations to follow, to breathe the air and conduct a healthy life with a climate change. and one of the best things for climate change is i think you said is rail. -- high-speed rail system.
-- what we have invested in rail is pitiful in comparison. in terms of more efficient operations. but the security needs of the country, in -- to be able to function. in the development of high-speed service receive a dedicated federal funding like our interstate highway system, our aviation system. that is really the first part of the question i ask. >> well, there's a sports writer in philadelphia who writes a column once a month and he entitles it "if i were king of the world" and he would delineate changes in sports. if i were king of the world we would stop messing around. every one of the g-7 nations
have created massive infrastructure repair problems. japan, germany, countries a fraction of our size who have spent over $1 trillion one time in a five to 10-year infrastructure program, that's what we should be doing as a nation. we should finance it through a capital budget. and we should change the way we score such financing meck anythings. it's the only way we can ever get this done. i mean, we're kidding ourselves. we're doing something to pat ourselves on the back saying, boy, i heard secretary lahood, and i think he's terrific, he said $13 billion is terrific. $13 billion is better than nothing. well, sure it is. but it doesn't get us anywhere down the road. we can't do infrastructure on the cheap. we have to invest what we need to invest and we have to find a way to do it. and we have to find the political courage to find a way to pay for it. i think a capital budget is long overdue. i testified as -- >> i agree.
>> i ran a pretty good size company and i can tell you if -- >> no company would ever -- >> cash basis it -- >> you wouldn't finance your capital means out of operating costs and we do. we finance building a train or bridge the same way we finance paper clips in the federal government. it's nuts. it's time to change. it's time to change and we better do it soon because infrastructure is a lot like that commercial, you can pay me now and he holds up a can of oil filter, $8.75, or you can pay me later, he points toe dilap dated car. it's not getting cheaper. it's not getting cheaper. >> you and i are very much on the same page. and all we have to do is convince about 85 others here that we're doing the right thing there. ms. fleming, in your march, 2009, report you studied high-speed rail service in france, japan and spain.
each of these countries has committed significant government support for its high-speed rail system. is it realistic to expect a high-speed passenger rail service to be successful without government contributing toward capital or -- and/or operating expense? >> what we found is there was a real commitment and priority in france, spain and japan. and the majority of upfront construction costs was born by the central government in these countries without the expectation that they would recoup these initial investments. and most of these countries, what they did was they build a initial trunk line in order to show success and then build upon it. the commitment followed with a significant amounts of money, and that model allowed them to
begin initial construction relatively quickly than if they didn't have that large investment by the central governments. >> thank you. i'd like to ask you a question, mr. boardman, and hope that we can get a quick response. my understanding that foreign-owned manufacturers passenger cars, high-speed rail equipment are interested in competing for the $8 billion that are provided in the recovery act. what can we do to encourage more american companies to enter in the high-speed rail manufacturing market? >> mr. chairman, i was encouraged yesterday to see that in the field hearing that the d.n.i. had, g.e. locomotive provided testimony where they are ready, they said, to build the next generation of diesel high speed and their definition was 110 to 124.
they had their c.e.o., lorenzo simenelli in pittsburgh. i think they're catching on to the fact there is a chitment here in this country and i think that's the most important part of that. >> and the commonwealth is velfing $7 million in helping to build that technology, senator. >> thank you. i'm going to turn to my ranking member here, senator thune, for you, sir, to ask your question. >> thank you, mr. chairman. governor -- senator wyden and i have a proposal called build america bonds which i think is sort of geared at what you're talking about. it's a way of bonding for capital improvements. i agree entirely that the way that we budget around here defies any sort of common sense or, you know, rational basis for making these types of decisions. it's clearly not the way that these decisions will be made in
the private sector if we ran a private business. i appreciate your observations about that. and i would say to mr. skancke that if brett favre is playing for the vikings next year there are going to be a lot more people that will want to get from sioux falls to minneapolis and prmblely quickly and without having to drive through a blizzard. if i might direct a question to, this will be to mr. szabo and ms. fleming. what i take from the g.a.o.'s testimony is ridership and cost. the concern is that overly optimistic project proponents is going to overstatement ridership and understatement cost. if the federal government makes investment decisions based upon faulty forecasts we're going to fund the projects that won't be successful. so i guess the question and maybe i'll direct this to mr. szabo is how are you going to evaluate scutch projections for proposed projects -- such
projections for proposed projects and are you going to rely on the project sponsor for those? >> well, first off, one of the key components that we will be ranking the applications on will be their proposed management plan and their management of risk which includes covering all of the operating costs and any cost overruns. those responsibilities belong to the applicant, not the federal government. so clearly it's in their best interest to protect themselves to ensure that those forecasts are accurate. one of the things that we plan to do is to use a temp late where essentially -- template where essentially they'll provide the data to us. we'll run that data through our own calculations to ensure that as we compare the projects we're getting an apples to apples comparison. we believe that that will help
ensure the integrity of the data and help us make sure that we have accurate forecasts. clearly at if r.a. we understand the fact that the projects that we -- at f.r.a. we understand the fact that the projects that we choose are going to have to be successful. we understand we cannot squander this opportunity. that if we are not in fact very careful about the projects we select and ensuring the success of the projects that we select, if we fumble that wall there won't be a next generation on this. so we understand the responsibility that we have and we're prepared to take that challenge. >> senator, can i add something quickly? one of the ways to ensure that you get an accurate estimate is if the state's recommending it, make sure they chip in some money so they bear the risk as well. amtrak and pennsylvania shared
the $145 million cost of the expansion of philadelphia to harrisburg. >> that's a good suggestion and one that we ought to i think take to heart if which do when we start looking at evaluating these projects. >> senator, it is a key part of our plan. >> it is, ok. and let me ask ms. fleming to sort of follow-up that question too. do you think the department should take or make sure these forecasts, when it relies on this information that you want to make them as accurate as possible. i guess my question is, do you believe there ought to be a neutral party that evalue waits these forecasts too in addition to having the -- >> ridership and other forecasts are key factors in determining whether a project or a system is going to be economically viable. and unfortunately, you know, statistics and results have shown that ridership tends to be overestimated and costs
tends to be underestimated. so we feel there are several ways to try to get and provide more reliable statistics. the first would be kind of following governor rendell which is really obligating the state and local governments to share some of the risks of underestimated costs. for those projects where they're seeking federal assistance. another way would be to abstain statements and forecasts from independent sources -- would be to obtain estimates and forecasts from independent sources. and lastly, making the forecasts subjected to peer review and making the data publicly available. so i think that those three things would be to better ensure that the information would be more reliable. >> mr. szabo, after we spend $13 billion that's likely to be appropriated for high-speed rail over the next five years, do you expect the united states to have at least one corridor of substantial length that's served by a japanese or
european style high-speed railroad? >> i think it's important that first off we wait and see what is applied for. you know, obviously i can't start commenting on what we're going to do until applications come forward and are weighed, you know, graded and then approved. again, we understand the need to ensure that we have very tangible, very, you know, substantial successes. and, you know, clearly, again, you know, our vision is to follow the model of what the europeans have advanced. you know, keep in mind when the system in spain first opened up, you know, again, ms. fleming talked about how essentially they begin with one trunk line. they did. they began with their one trunk line. essentially it was six to eight
trains a day running about 125 miles an hour. and from that they were so successful that they incrementally made the improvements that got them to roughly 20 trains a day at speeds of 200 miles an hour. so this is going to take a buildout, you know, a buildout much like the construction of the interstate highway system. and, again, we need to understand, the it v.g. system in france today, if you ride from paris to strawsburg, if you come out of paris you are going 200 miles an hour. 2/3 along the way you flow on to what they call traditional track and you're doing speeds of about 125 miles an hour. so it's not this either or proposition. >> mr. chairman, my time has expired. i thank you all very much. >> i'm called elsewhere. senator udall can going to take over and senator boxer will be
next. senator hutchinson and then it's all up to senator udall from new mexico. he's going to fix the whole problem. >> senator lautenberg, on your way out the door, i just want to thank you very much for this hearing, sir. and high-speed rail is critical. it's just really critical. i want to pick up on senator thune's comments about the funding. senator thune, i just wanted to pick up on your points about the funding because it's very critical. this $13 billion standing alone just can go so far. but in my state we had an election about putting in $9 billion funding package, and the people voted aye which was kind of remarkable given the latest votes that we had. so, you know, the people there really understand it. and our system, and i think -- i bet most everybody in this
room has been to my state. it will eventually connect sacramento, our state capital, to san diego in the south. that is the first phase will be between los angeles and san francisco, points in between. i also want to point out the private sector has to be leveraged into this too. in california we're working with the private sector so you take the $13 billion, you add the $9 billion from my state, hopefully billions from other states, and hopefully billions from the private sector that you can get involved in it. and it starts to look like something on the scale not quite what governor rendell wants, i don't think. because i think he even has a bigger plan, but i think you start to leverage and you start to see some real things happening. and i wanted to just point out that our studies, and if i am saying something that's been disproven, let me know, show that our high-speed rail in
california save 12.7 million barrels a year by 2030 and reduce co-2 emissions by 12 billion pounds per year. supposed to be 160,000 construction jobs and literally they're saying california hundreds of thousands of permanent jobs by 2035. so i think as we look at a lot of the problems facing us, this great recession, the co-2 problem, the need to be energy independent, the need to make people feel comfortable getting out of their car, this seems to be one place. so i have two questions. the first one, both of them, actually, is to administer -- administrator szabo. what is your development for high-speed rail nationally, and what do you consider most important for funding? will a state contribution bear
some weight here? >> yes, that is one of the elements that while not mandatory in most of the tracks that, you know, the funding tracks that we provide, it's certainly that is something that is weighted, and something certainly that is encouraged. you know, our vision, frankly, matches what they have done in europe. and i think it's important to note you can compare it a little bit to the road system where you have local roads, you have county roads, you have state highways, you have u.s. highways and you have an interstate system. in all -- and all play a very, very important role, and they all interconnect with each other to provide hopefully a first-class road system. our approach will need to be the same on rail. just like it is in europe. you know, in europe, in japan, not every train is going 200
miles an hour. many of them are, but there continues to be a niche in the market for 110-mile service. there seems to be a niche in the market for traditional 79-mile-an-hour service. >> will state effort matter? >> absolutely. critical element. yes, absolutely. >> i said i had two questions. i have three. that's one. the second one is to mr. skancke who served as commissioner on the national surface transportation policy and revenue study commission. he's been very important in advising us in the e.p.w. committee on how to proceed with the next highway bill, etc. then i have the last question to mr. szabo. so, mr. skancke, do you believe d.o.t. has a realistic and workable plan to implement high-speed rail nationally? and what steps must they take to ensure we have a sustainable system in the u.s.? >> senator boxer, i don't think
the nation as a whole has a plan for high-speed rail. you know me very well to know that i am very candid to answer the questions. >> that's why i asked it. >> i think our nation lacks a vision on how we are going to move our american public out to 2050. it's why this congress in safety lieu created the transportation -- in safetlu created the transportation bill. as we get people out of our own horse and buggy, that it is a cultural sift. we have to convince the american public that high-speed passenger rail is going to be predictable, that it's going to be ontime and it's going to be reliable. and we do that two ways. one, we just make the investment. we don't talk about what the programs are going to look like. we've done that. we studied corridors. we know what the alignment should look like.
i believe that we just need to do it. we need to step up, fund it, find the funding mechanisms that are needed and make the necessary investment. >> ok. >> i think it's just that simple. >> ok. so my last question. you said predictable, reliable and you had another word. >> dependable. >> you didn't say safe. of course, it's obvious. >> yes, obviously. >> safe, it's got to be safe. my last question deals with the tragedy that happened on the metro line here. we just wrote a letter -- senator rockefeller and i -- to talk about the need to move forward with positive train control and other life-saving measures because we really are going to have to address this. this was awful, and we've seen these things happen in my state. so my question to you, and my last question is, do you intend
to move forward with positive train control and do it quickly so we can let people know we're moving forward on the safety question? >> yes, absolutely. first off, we have a congressional mandate to ensure that positive train control is implemented by the year 2015, and it's our intent to make sure that that deadline is met. secondly, it's impossible to talk about high-speed rail without at the same time talking about positive train control. again, using the european models, you know, they have their european train control. you can't have trains going 200 miles an hour if you don't have some element of positive train control. >> we have to fix it for the ones we have got going now. i hope you move quicker than 2015. that's some place that i have to compromise. i think it needs to be swifter than that. thank you. >> senator hutchinson. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me start with judge eckels